Arisa hatches a plot to upgrade Tohru’s swimwear from her middle-school-issued holdover, and hauls the Soma boys out to participate. The excursion transitions into a lunch out where Arisa tells Yuki and Kyo the story of how she and Tohru became friends, beginning years before, with a brief outline of her broken home and descent into gang activity. The conclusion is left for the next episode, as this one ends after Arisa recalls her devastating introduction to Kyoko, finding out that the woman she idolized for being the legendary gang leader known as the Crimson Butterfly had left the underworld to become the picture of domestic contentment.
It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that this has been my most-anticipated chapter thus far (which might not be strictly fair, since few of the show’s other plot points have lent themselves to this kind of speculation for as long as this one has), and so far it’s going very well. The first half of the episode is a good excuse to get the male leads together in a mildly embarrassing situation where they can butt heads with each other and with Tohru’s friends, and it leads organically to the main event of Arisa giving a frank accounting of her middle school days.
As an aside, Arisa gets bonus points for standing up for her name, even if she couldn’t do it immediately out of the initial shock and potentially out of respect for Kyoko. It’s very refreshing to find an anime character on my side of the nickname issue, even if her mental state at the time was somewhat in flux.
I feel for her plight, too, which is something that this show tends to manage only by degrees. Her disillusionment and frustration are well-explored – subtle to the point that both she and I have trouble putting them into words, but persistent to the point of being overwhelming.
If I have any complaint with this episode, it’s that the three delinquents following her around in the present day are far too amateurish in the delinquent arts to be taken at all seriously, relative to the real, actual gang (with adult supervision!) that Arisa was in for, like, three years. Whatever part they’re going to play already feels like it’s going to be pointless and/or anticlimactic, and that’s just relative to what we know has to happen in the flashback – let alone the potential for more depth to be found in Akimoto.
The girls at school aren’t doing themselves any favors, either:
I eagerly await the second half of this chapter.